Films that are 50

Films that are 50: A mad scientist, a vampire and willing victims in cross-border hit ‘Zinda Laash’

The baggy adaptation of the Dracula legend proved to be a neat box office fit in Pakistan in 1967.

When Pakistani actor Habib proposed a movie about the Dracula legend in Pakistan, filmmaker Khwaja Sarfraz didn’t bite.

It would be a commercial disaster, Sarfraz said. Yet, he could not reject the idea since Habib was a close friend. Sarfraz dragged his feet for over six months, finally relenting only when he realised that Habib was dead serious. Sarfraz laid down three conditions: he would pick the cinematographers and the background music composer, and select the sets and locations. Habib agreed and thus, the first ever Pakistani vampire film Zinda Laash (The Living Corpse) finally got rolling.

Unlike several technically shoddy Pakistani films, Zinda Laash is a superior production from across the border. The highly expressionistic use of light and shadows by cinematographers Raza Mir, Nabi Ahmed and Irshad lends the film a suitably eerie and Baroque atmosphere. Even as the film creates menace by playing around with symbolic visuals and props in addition to the lighting and the sound design, it mostly keeps the blood and gore off the screen. This makes for richer viewing, as the violence is left to the viewer’s imagination.

Play
Zinda Laash (1967).

Zinda Laash is a baggy adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel – he is acknowledged in the credits – and is inspired more by the Hammer production Horror of Dracula (1958). Zinda Laash follows the efforts of scientist Tabani (Rehan) to create the elixir of life in his laboratory at home. Tabani drinks the potion and appears to die from its after-effects. As per his request, his remains are stored in a coffin in the cellar. At night, however, Tabani rises again, having become a vampire thirsty for blood.

Engaging as film is, it is undoubtedly dated and dips in the portions set outside Tabani’s house. Though Zinda Laash was made in the swinging ’60s and gives us a contemporary version of the Dracula tale, it ultimately plays safe in the battle of good versus evil. In the essay Violence And Horror In Pakistani Cinema, Ali Khan and Ali Nobil Ahmad write, “Zinda Laash is in many ways politically conservative. The religious faith of the film’s triumphant survivors defeats Professor Tabani’s mistaken belief in the arrogant pretensions of rational science.”

Khan and Ahmed add, “Female sexuality and desire are represented in powerfully agential terms. Professor Tabani’s ‘victims’ are largely willing; they lie back, close their eyes and expose their necks to his bites. They appear dishevelled and uninterested in children or domestic life after his ‘visits.’.”۫

Rehan and Habib in Zinda Laash. Courtesy Omar Ali Khan.
Rehan and Habib in Zinda Laash. Courtesy Omar Ali Khan.

In terms of performances, it’s all about Dracula. Rehan, who was the unanimous choice for the role by Habib and Sarfraz, is spot-on as the caped prince of darkness. Rehan had worked in India in key supporting roles in Mehboob Khan’s films Elan (1947) and Anokhi Ada (1948) before making Pakistan his home. In an interview, the actor recalled that his fangs were acquired from a local dentist from abroad.

The other actors, including Habib playing second fiddle to Rehan even though he is technically the hero, are fine too. Nasreen is noteworthy as the scientist’s first victim after he becomes a vampire.

While the background score is an asset, the songs do little for the plot and seem to pop out of nowhere. However, the two club sequences still have some life to them, thanks to the sensuous choreography that was regarded quite daring and even indecent at the time.

Play
Udhar Jawani Idhar Nasha .

Zinda Laash faced some of its biggest hurdles at the time of its release. The Pakistani Censor Board was shocked at what it termed the “filth” of the material and gave it an Adults only rating – the first ever such certification for a Pakistani film. The censors clamped down on some of the dance numbers, declaring the hip and breast movements of the female dancers as vulgar. A religious reference to Saint Joseph was also deleted.

Even if the scientist did not quite have his happy ending, the film itself did. Zinda Laash was released on July 7, 1967, and was a hit – the adult certification ended up reeling in audiences. Some viewers said they could not sleep afterwards, while a newspaper report even claimed that a woman had died in Gujranwala after a Zinda Laash viewing.

Courtesy Omar Ali Khan.
Courtesy Omar Ali Khan.

After its initial run, Zinda Laash was thought to have been lost forever. But thanks to the efforts of Pakistani filmmaker Omar Ali Khan, the film’s negative, supposedly lost in the floods of 1996, was found in rusting cans at Evernew Studios in Pakistan. To Khan’s delight, the material was largely in decent condition, leading to its restoration. Zinda Laash has also been released as a special collector’s edition DVD with several extra features.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Not just for experts: How videography is poised for a disruption

Digital solutions are making sure it’s easier than ever to express your creativity in moving images.

Where was the last time you saw art? Chances are on a screen, either on your phone or your computer. Stunning photography and intricate doodles are a frequent occurrence in the social feeds of many. That’s the defining feature of art in the 21st century - it fits in your pocket, pretty much everyone’s pocket. It is no more dictated by just a few elite players - renowned artists, museum curators, art critics, art fair promoters and powerful gallery owners. The digital age is spawning creators who choose to be defined by their creativity more than their skills. The negligible incubation time of digital art has enabled experimentation at staggering levels. Just a few minutes of browsing on the online art community, DeviantArt, is enough to gauge the scope of what digital art can achieve.

Sure enough, in the 21st century, entire creative industries are getting democratised like never before. Take photography, for example. Digital photography enabled everyone to capture a memory, and then convert it into personalised artwork with a plethora of editing options. Apps like Instagram reduced the learning curve even further with its set of filters that could lend character to even unremarkable snaps. Prisma further helped to make photos look like paintings, shaving off several more steps in the editing process. Now, yet another industry is showing similar signs of disruption – videography.

Once burdened by unreliable film, bulky cameras and prohibitive production costs, videography is now accessible to anyone with a smartphone and a decent Internet bandwidth. A lay person casually using social media today has so many video types and platforms to choose from - looping Vine videos, staccato Musical.lys, GIFs, Instagram stories, YouTube channels and many more. Videos are indeed fast emerging as the next front of expression online, and so are the digital solutions to support video creation.

One such example is Vizmato, an app which enables anyone with a smartphone to create professional-looking videos minus the learning curve required to master heavy, desktop software. It makes it easy to shoot 720p or 1080p HD videos with a choice of more than 40 visual effects. This fuss- free app is essentially like three apps built into one - a camcorder with live effects, a feature-rich video editor and a video sharing platform.

With Vizmato, the creative process starts at the shooting stage itself as it enables live application of themes and effects. Choose from hip hop, noir, haunted, vintage and many more.

The variety of filters available on Vizmato
The variety of filters available on Vizmato

Or you can simply choose to unleash your creativity at the editing stage; the possibilities are endless. Vizmato simplifies the core editing process by making it easier to apply cuts and join and reverse clips so your video can flow exactly the way you envisioned. Once the video is edited, you can use a variety of interesting effects to give your video that extra edge.

The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.
The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.

You can even choose music and sound effects to go with your clip; there’s nothing like applause at the right moment, or a laugh track at the crack of the worst joke.

Or just annotated GIFs customised for each moment.

Vizmato is the latest offering from Global Delight, which builds cross-platform audio, video and photography applications. It is the Indian developer that created award-winning iPhone apps such as Camera Plus, Camera Plus Pro and the Boom series. Vizmato is an upgrade of its hugely popular app Game Your Video, one of the winners of the Macworld Best of Show 2012. The overhauled Vizmato, in essence, brings the Instagram functionality to videos. With instant themes, filters and effects at your disposal, you can feel like the director of a sci-fi film, horror movie or a romance drama, all within a single video clip. It even provides an in-built video-sharing platform, Popular, to which you can upload your creations and gain visibility and feedback.

Play

So, whether you’re into making the most interesting Vines or shooting your take on Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’, experience for yourself how Vizmato has made video creation addictively simple. Android users can download the app here and iOS users will have their version in January.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Vizmato and not by the Scroll editorial team.